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Valedictorian: Emily G Linford

Emily G. Linford


Emily Linford is from Elk Ridge, Utah, and hopes to become an author. She said she has enjoyed diving into literature and seeing how the works of authors apply to the world and contemporary issues. While at UVU, she was recognized with the Outstanding Honors Project Award for her capstone project — a novel in progress entitled “The Transformation of Medusa.” Linford credits the honors program for shaping her experience while at UVU. She said it provided her with opportunities to take classes, attend activities, and learn a variety of amazing topics, which enriched her educational experience despite the pandemic. She also notes UVU has felt accessible and is a place where she could be challenged and yet be successful. While immersed in studies, she said she learned “so much” about creative writing and skills that help her write, edit, and be a professional in the workplace. She hopes to be published within the next five years.

Outstanding Graduate - Behavioral Science: Brynn Wallentine

Brynn Wallentine

Outstanding Graduate

Behavioral Science

Brynn Wallentine’s hometown is Pleasant Grove, Utah. She chose UVU because of its commitment to diversity and accessibility. She said she felt at home among UVU’s diverse student body and welcomed the opportunity to work alongside others with differing points of view. The opportunity for transformation fueled by a passion for lifelong learning led her to success at UVU. She said the university helped her learn to envision herself as someone who could reach her goals and gave her the motivation to not just keep going — but keep growing. Wallentine values the relationships and connections she has formed at UVU. Other highlights of her education at UVU include presenting at an Evidence-Based Teaching & Learning conference in San Diego, earning a spot on the dean’s list in Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2021, being awarded the Jeanene Watkins Scholarship, and earning a 4.0 GPA. Wallentine enjoys cooking, reading, and playing hockey when she isn't studying. She is also particularly thankful for her mother and siblings and says, “they helped make this journey a beautiful one.” Her journey is not finished. She intends to pursue a Master of Science in mental health counseling this fall.

Outstanding Graduate - Communication: Kayla Baggerly

Kayla Baggerly

Outstanding Graduate


Kayla Baggerly, from Eagle Mountain, Utah, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism and a minor in digital media. Kayla says she decided to attend UVU because she loved its mission statement to include, engage, and achieve. While attending the university, Kayla had the opportunity hold multiple positions at the UVU Review newspaper, serving as a volunteer writer, social media manager, managing editor, and editor-in-chief. She is especially proud of earning a second-place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her Latter-day LGBTQ+ series while at the newspaper. She was also a presidential intern in the Office of Inclusion and Diversity at UVU. Kayla currently works as a reporter for ABC4 News and hopes to be an even better reporter and published fantasy author in five years. Kayla loves playing piano, spending time with her dog and family, and exploring the world.

Outstanding Graduate - English & Literature: Madeline McBeth

Tyson J. Swasey

Outstanding Graduate

English & Literature

Tyson Swasey is a native of Price, Utah, and the oldest of seven siblings. He is a first-generation student. He chose UVU because he said it’s an environment of authentic innovation driven by passion and a love of learning. Swasey explains that while at UVU, he learned that everyone has a passion and a story. His English education major helped him understand the potential of learning and stories. He credits community-building opportunities such as winning ski passes and creating flower bouquets at an interfaith event for generating excitement for learning. He said he is most proud of his connections with his peers while at UVU. Through those relationships, he said his thinking progressed and showed him the potential outcomes of working together. At UVU, he worked for two English department journals: Touchstones and Essais. He also maintained a 4.0 GPA while working as an academic intervention aid at Carbon High during the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduation, he plans to return to the classroom as a middle school teacher. His long-term goals include becoming a school administrator.

Outstanding Graduate - History & Political Science and Integrated Studies: Jeff Hibbard

Jeff Hibbard

Outstanding Graduate

History & Political Science

Jeff Don Hibbard hails from Pleasant View, Utah. His educational journey at UVU led to discovering a future career he was not aware of before his arrival on campus. He found that he enjoys global politics, public policy, and other political science-related fields. Hibbard also had no intention of pursuing a graduate degree before homing in on his interests, but he’s now preparing to apply for a master’s program related to the Chinese language at a Chinese university. His 4.0 GPA may also serve to gain him acceptance into a graduate program with an emphasis on public policy. While at UVU, Hibbard participated in various clubs and organizations, including the Utah International Forum, Rotaract, Foreign Policy Club, and the Chinese Club. He also assisted with UVU’s Diplomatic Conference and spoke at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. He said the best part of attending UVU is the level of care provided by professors and the evidence that each student’s success matters. He recommends students reach out to their professors as he did, having emailed every professor he has ever had. In his free time, Hibbard enjoys reading, drawing, and sewing.

Outstanding Graduate - Integrated Studies: Mason Stauffer

Mason Stauffer

Outstanding Graduate

Integrated Studies

Mason Stauffer is from Orem, Utah. He said he had no idea what to do with his life when he entered UVU. Still, good advisors, mentors, classes, professors, and programs taught him that he enjoyed anthropology and communication. He later discovered a connection between those two subjects and national security. He combined those passions and further cultivated his love of playing the trumpet while at UVU while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. This fall, he will begin a master’s program at the Institute of World Politics, with a focus on strategic intelligence. He is grateful for the UVU professors who focus on students and individual success. He acknowledges that Utah Valley University may not be as “fancy” as other colleges but appreciates that, as it allows more funds to go toward helping gritty students succeed. In his spare time, Stauffer enjoys hiking, trapping, Dutch oven cooking, and playing the trumpet.

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Outstanding Graduate - Languages and Cultures: Emily Qualls

Emily Brianna Qualls

Outstanding Graduate

Languages & Cultures

Emily Brianna Qualls grew up in California, but has lived most of her life in Syracuse, Utah, with her family of 11. After changing her major four times, she was still searching for the right fit. After reflecting on her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to Guayaquil, Ecuador, Emily realized how deeply she missed and loved the people, food, culture, and language of Ecuador. She said that learning Spanish took a lot of time and effort, but that it opened up an entirely new world for her. Emily appreciated that the classes in her major pushed her to embrace Spanish literature, history, and culture in a way she never had before. Emily married the love of her life in December of 2021 and is currently working at doTERRA as an international database author.

Outstanding Graduate - MSW: Juan Daniel Palencia

Juan Daniel Palencia

Outstanding Graduate

Philosophy & Humanities

Juan Daniel Palencia is from Palm Desert, California. He said Utah Valley University helped him develop a studying lifestyle and become part of a community of other curious individuals who shared questions and ideas. He said that faculty in the philosophy department created stimulating and engaging dialogue, and he enjoyed their authenticity and willingness to experiment in the learning environment. During his time at UVU, Palencia served as club president for the UVU Philosophy Club, was the managing editor of the Sophia undergraduate philosophy journal, and was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Essais. After graduation, he plans to pursue an advanced degree in philosophy and eventually become a philosophy professor. Palencia said that among the lessons learned at UVU, he found that the most challenging experiences are the most rewarding because you realize what you don’t know, and that is the first step to knowing yourself and where you can improve. In his free time, Daniel enjoys writing songs and recording music.